Switching Perspectives (Analysis of In Touch) [Part 1]

Why is it so much easier for me to write from the point of view of a male? In Touch, being the third story I’ve completed, was by far the most effortless piece I’ve written to date. One could claim this is because the themes of In Touch were purely an autobiographical experience against the backdrop of a fiction story. The odd but magical part of writing this book, though, laid in the fact that I was writing about obsessive compulsive disorder from an outsider’s point of view… a male’s point of view. Sitting in this Starbucks, for the second Sunday in a row, now writing scenes for another story through a male narrator, I find myself asking the question- why is writing from a male’s perspective so much easier for me? My guess is that it has something to do with the prisons we call ego and expectations.

If you’ve read any of my poetry and prose work then you’ll quickly realize it is no secret that I am extremely tied to my female identity. So you would think I would write more effortlessly from the female point of view, but from a personal standpoint that just doesn’t feel like the case.

In Touch was honestly the easiest book I’ve written to date. Was it the “best”? I don’t know. But it was certainly less difficult. Most notably, it was effortless. The words flowed from my brain with no hesitation. I barely had to think. I just wrote. I remember lying in bed scribbling dialogues between the main characters, Jef and Lacey, with no interruption of thought. I remember phrases and comments popping in my head when I was working my retail job and jotting them down on scrap pieces of paper. Many brief but key comments unraveled into beautiful chapters and concepts that I genuinely do not feel took any brain power. They just popped into existence and my mind acted as the translator between wherever art spawns and where it is destined to be recorded. Bringing my daily thoughts and imaginary conversations alive on paper was as easy watching TV.

In Touch (Cover, No Binding)

Writing as a person who is so obviously not me, that being a young man, brings no pressure. There’s no ego conflicts or stress to “get it right”. Any expectations I have on the identity I project to the world is irrelevant. All that matters is writing meaningful passages. The ego that haunts “Valerie” is no longer in control. It really is freeing. I imagine this kind of disconnect from the self but connection to the collective consciousness that is the rest of the world is what it is like to feel free. And for this reason I think I not only have a more effortless experience purging the words on paper through a male narrator’s voice. The idea that it is easier to write as somebody who is not me is rich with irony, and that fascinates me more and more every day.

When I have writer’s block I look at that 488 page novel and wonder how the heck I did that. Then at moments like today when I started writing from another male narrator’s perspective new words flowed instantly and I remembered what it was like to be inspired.

Yes, I identify with all my narrators to some extent. We do share the same brain after all. But there’s something flawless and liberating about writing without Val’s ego and Val’s expectations breathing down my throat. No interruptions. It’s easier to write and write and write until the thoughts dry out. I feel more “natural” writing as a different gender and identity, and I think that’s why In Touch came out exactly as I dreamed it would.

To purchase In Touch you can go to Amazon.com!

The entire universe and its blessings are in the palm of my hand

Nebula TreeThe entire universe and its blessings are in the palm of my hand by Valerie Parente

The entire universe and its blessings are in the palm of my hand. I can feel the energy that makes up you and me and everything in between and I am in awe that I did not notice until now how interconnected we all are with the energy we spawned from. I still have longings but I feel so whole and complete like my longings long back for me. I feel that my blessings walk beside me even when they can’t be seen. I am not discouraged when things do not go my way, I am empowered. Every struggle is proof that I am worthy of more than I hoped to settle for and I am in awe and in love with the story the universe writes about me.

– Valerie Parente (9-27-2018)

Shed Your Ego

A lot of your problems stem from the fact that you are tied to your ego. When you can’t let go of the past, it is your ego that is trying to maintain the story its been telling by reliving memories. When you set expectations it is your ego that is trying to establish itself on superficial ground. It is time to let go of the ego self and live life as the instrument of energy that you are in this universe, flowing with the present and accepting the healing nature that the present bestows upon you. You are made of light and love and you will be free when you shed the ego that has been veiling the real you.

– Valerie Parente (8-27-2018)

Investigating the Nostalgia Flood

Investigating the Nostalgia Flood by Valerie Parente

 

Phenomena?

The nostalgia flood.

This is the term I am coining for a recent struggle I have been facing for the past few days. Recently I have been thinking vehemently about the past lately, to a deeply emotive point that my thoughts are beginning to hurt from the very core of my being. I am struggling to come to an emotional understanding as to whether this intense flood of seemingly random and eclectic waves of nostalgia are resurfacing for a specific reason, one which might correlate with my physical circumstances, or if the bittersweet reminiscing is simply a mental product of neurons going haywire in my brain.

 

What Is Going On?

I can’t help but question two key aspects of the nostalgia flood; first, is there an obsessive compulsive component to the reminiscing? If so are these memories purely the OCD playing head games with me, or do these memories hold some sort of objective meaning in the light of a mind that was not plagued with obsessive compulsive disorder? Second, is there something that each of these (seemingly) random memories have in common? If so why now am I revisiting the underlying psychological thesis behind these flashbacks?

Confessional

 

How Does It Feel?

Before I try to make sense of what has been happening to me alongside the guide of the latter questions I would like to note the emotional quality of the mental memorabilia that has been pressing at the forefront of my conscience for a few days now. Every one of these memories are good memories. They are times that I hold near and dear in my heart and consider some of the best moments of my childhood or adolescence. Every time I remember the heartwarming moment my breath is taken away and, as dramatic as it sounds, feel as if I need to cry, initially out of happiness and then the more I think about the memory I feel compelled to cry out of sadness. Never do I get to the point of actually tearing up though. There is just this strange sensation of resounding love that fills up my chest and then a horrible wave of sadness that follows. If I had to categorize it as any psychological state I’d call it grief. Grief not for a life lost, but a time lost. The heavy sadness that festers in my mind, after the joyous flashbacks begin to blur, always feels comparable to mourning. And this odd but powerful experience makes me wonder: why am I mourning? Why do I not stay in that initial happy state when the intrusive OCD mechanism calls up the memory? These are memories of old friends, love interests, family! One particular memory is of a time when I felt very socially accepted, specifically regarding a person I would wind up catching feelings for. Another example of a memory revolves around sleepovers and parties with some long-lost best friends when we would laugh until we cried!  … Oh. Interesting. I am catching something significant as I sort this out in a Word document. “Laugh until we cried”. This phrase unnervingly reflects the exact recent state of mind I have been in as I reminisce. It seems that the very content of these memories, incidents like laughing until I am crying with a best friend (or feeling the ecstasy of social acceptance which would soon melt into fragile infatuation) projects happiness that deteriorates into vulnerability. Of course this could be dismissed as a coincidence, but I personally do not believe the universe works in coincidences. And for that reason I think it is safe to say the metaphorical nature of my nostalgia, much like psychoanalytical dream theory (theories of dreams that accredit dream motifs to the subconscious), actually proves a commonality among my memories. The commonality subsequently causes me to believe that the flood of nostalgia is not random or even eclectic, but that each of these fond moments from the past and people associated with these fond moments are purposely being called up by my brain, an OCD brain that is operating with rhyme and reason.

 

Who Is Involved?

The memories that I have been dwelling on were very prosocial in nature. These were times when I was thriving in my social circle. Now, I think it is fair to acknowledge that in some respect most of us can get sad when thinking back to positive moments because we recognize that they are over. Time moves laterally and irreversibly. This fact is just a discomfort we all have with our temporal confines as we undergo the human experience. Good times will always come to an end. And yes, that is sad if you choose to be sad about it, but I do not feel as though I am making a choice, and for that reason I do not allocate much responsibility to this factual perspective when talking about the nostalgia flood. If anything I am saddened because of the context in which these memories ended. For example, and I hinted at this a little before, but every person that I am reminiscing about is a person that I no longer have a relationship with. In fact if any of these people knew that I was thinking about them recently, let alone getting genuinely upset about the relationship which, to my everlasting dismay, fizzled out, they would probably think I was a complete lunatic (honestly I can’t say I’d disagree). I never quite felt satisfied with how things ended with any of these several people. Each and every relationship, for one reason or another, stands in my mind as a relationship that should have endured. Relationships that are incomplete. Some people I lost communication with a decade ago, some people 5 years ago, some people a few months ago, and each person was somebody that I never truly wanted to lose a friendship with. I always wanted more, more laughs, more memories, more attention, etc. Nevertheless, these are all people that I got close to at one point and wound up losing touch with. I do not think that the selection of people associated with my nostalgia is random. Between the emotional timeline within these individual memories, converting from high-as-a-kite happiness to profound grief, and the correlated social position each person has in my mind, demoting from close companion to complete stranger, I have come to the conclusion that there absolutely is a theme taking place in my psyche.

 

Why Now?

When a theme is taking place in the psyche of somebody with obsessive compulsive disorder, there is always a question of whether or not that theme is relevant to the current circumstances of that person. When it comes to the nostalgia flood and its eerie resemblance to OCD intrusive thinking, what is the theme?

The theme overarching my nostalgia revolve around losing something before I was ready to lose it. There was a sense of incompletion. The memories embody lost relationships and elicit a mourning-esque response. Why now would I be reaching back into my long-term memory and pulling out these snippets of emotional density? Why is my brain reminding me of heavy emotions? Why does my brain want me to feel the high of happiness and the low of loss that follows?

Honestly answering this question after dissecting the qualities of the nostalgia flood is not difficult. The only feat left is to describe how my life has been going in the current day. Without going into too much personal detail, I can modestly say that I am at a paradox in my life. I have never felt more rich with life experience or more proud to be me, but at the same time I have never felt more lost with where I am going or more longing to engage with a (certain) person who shares a similar mindset as me. I do not know how to satiate my mind socially in the way that it wants to be satiated because the person that I would like to spend time with is a person I am having a hard time communicating with due to the trials and tribulations that adulthood presents. This social predicament has been key in my confusion with which direction I should take next. After investigating the nostalgia flood in the past few paragraphs it should come as no surprise that my memories of wonderful yet lost relationships can accurately represent this inner mentality of feeling positive about myself but lost in the social department.

– Valerie Parente (4-25-2018)

Love Without Reason

tulip feet

The most authentic love is the kind that you do not understand. You could spend years trying to piece together a formula that could sufficiently explain this love but never come to a satisfying conclusion. When someone asks you why you love this person, you cannot give one definitive reason why. You cannot pick out a particular feature of this person that summarizes your attraction. You just feel it. Something indescribably gravitates you to this person and you do not know why or care to know why. It does not matter. There is no making sense of this feeling with logic or reason. This love and any abounding comprehension of this love transcends beyond the human brain’s capabilities. You know your love is in its realest form when you cannot understand it no matter how hard you try. We see undeniable proof of this marvel in our love for our family and, periodically, in romantic love.

– Valerie Parente (4-11-2018)

The Power of Portraits

 

I love the art of the portrait. Through painting and sketching my favorite artists, typically in the music industry, I catch a glimpse of peace.

When I am feeling inspired I find that creating art through  personal ideas is exciting and even euphoric, but when my mind is clouded and I cannot generate original images in my head I turn to portraits. I’ve found, having more than one mental disorder obstacle in my life, that there is usually a time and place to face the idiosyncratic demons that dwell in my psyche. Depression, for one, can catalyze breathtaking art when the moment is right, but confronting depression through art is inopportune when I do not have the energy or mental capacity to face the darkness within. Times like this are sublime for shifting my aesthetic towards portrait painting and drawing. The power of portraits, at least from my experience, comes from the fact that I do not have to do much thinking. It’s very instinctual and intuitive. For this reason I am able to feel a sort of harmony with the plane that my consciousness permeates.

Getting lost in the use of your hand as you mindlessly translate a photograph on a screen into a portrait on a canvas is the type of therapeutic my redundant brain craves. There is something deeply meditative about studying an image of another human being, whom you admire and connect with on an artistic level, and merging their meaningful archetype in your mind with your own language of brush strokes or pencil markings. Portrait-making sends me in a zone of consciousness so powerful that I genuinely do not feel the weight of time. My perception is blissfully numb to the minutes, hours, even days that pass by while I lose my ego in acrylic shapes. The pain of depression or the edge of anxiety is muted. It still inhabits my subconscious, but the radio that is my brain doesn’t transmit these signals. All I can perceive is this timeless unity of a beloved image and my instinctive hands replicating the image with my own signature touches.

 

For more portraits by Valerie Parente check out the Portrait Gallery !

– Valerie Parente (3-9-2018)

Embracing Pain

inkblot make up

It is a fallacy to believe that embracing your pain means wallowing in melancholy as you let it overpower you. Truthfully embracing your pain means facing your melancholy until the melancholy loses its power over you.

– Valerie Parente (10-14-2017)

Feelings Are Not Facts

Feelings are not facts.

I have always had an obsession with “staying true to myself” (a fixation inevitably misguided through that tumultuous identity crisis phase of life called adolescence). To bolster that very egocentric obsession I made it my goal to identify each and every one of my current feelings. Sometimes a simple mental identification was not enough to satiate the irksome “who am I?” question scratching at my conscience, so I would try to preserve my emotional experience through art. As a young girl this meant poetry and diary entries. This meant falling prone to the vice of greed and using written word to further intensify feelings that, through hindsight and therapy, turned out to be not as idiosyncratic as I had liked to believe. This also meant wallowing in certain songs, scribbling lyrics out on lacerated notebook pages in class, impulsively imagining them tattooed one day. This meant drawing and painting and photographing anything and everything that felt like an expression of how I currently felt. Identifying feelings might be healthy in moderate doses, but being somebody with obsessive compulsive disorder I tend to gravitate towards all-or-nothing thinking. Moderation does not come easily. So, to no surprise, I overdid it when it came to treating feelings like end-all-be-all factual information.

Feelings can sometimes be factual, but this is certainly not always the case. In my experience I have found two major contradictions which highlight the underlying truth that feelings are not the same thing as facts.

First, feelings are transient. Feelings come and go just as our circumstances come and go. Any and every emotional state is fleeting, and to treat a mood such as outrage or excitement like a veridical truth that can substitute as an all-encompassing proverb would do a disservice to anybody undergoing either a positive or negative mood.
For example, if I am depressed about a literary rejection, feeling discouraged and dry on hope, I have every right to feel that way- but to mistake that feeling with a fact like “I am unworthy of publication” could lead to an unfair condemnation of “I do not deserve to live my dream as a published author” and end with “I have no rational choice but to give up on my dream.” Another, more relatable example is how, in our self-consciousness, we sometimes “guess” others’ opinions of us. If you have a bad hair day and feel insecure, you might distribute that feeling of insecurity outwards and let it pollute your perception of the world. One moment of eye contact with a peer in the hallway and you assume that they think you are ugly or unattractive. Just because you feel a certain way inside, does not mean you can mindread other people and say, for a fact, what an individual might think of you. This way of thinking could easily lead to many missed opportunities, unfair judgments, and unnecessary travesties.

The second contradiction in equating feelings to facts derives from the very human quality that you are capable of feeling more than one emotion at once, including ones that are polar opposite to each other.
We have more than one situation going for us in our every day lives, some bad, some good. For a long time I would undergo a sort of existential confusion when relaying information about my moods to therapists. For instance, I could not understand why I felt very confident and optimistic about the future while also feeling frustrated and sad about certain problem areas in my life. It took a simple “a-ha” moment of realizing that feelings are not facts to accept that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with me for feeling more than one contradictory emotion at once. It is possible to feel enthusiastic about a promotion and also deeply hurt about a strained relationship. It is possible to love and care about your well-being while still feeling shame over your imperfections. It is possible to be in a very grateful mood for all the laughs and joys of life while experiencing simultaneous bitterness around the shortcomings in your life. Humans are sentient beings capable of feeling more than one emotion at a time. That is a fact.

stitch myself up

To clarify, I am not saying that I no longer acknowledge or draw inspiration from my emotions- what I am saying is that I am no longer going to be a slave to my emotions and the muses that spawn from them. I will always love expressing myself artistically, and I will always tune into my emotions to be the aesthete I thrive in being- but I will be damned if I let a creative drive knock me down a peg in all of my social and spiritual growth. It has taken me a decade of mental health struggles to realize that wallowing in melancholy and solitude (at the expense of my youth and my relationships) is not the right path to go down. I say this as somebody who struggles with extremist tendencies- staying “true to yourself” does not mean focus all your energy into present emotions. Moderate that energy into feelings, thoughts, and instincts. I know we hear it all the time between culture to culture, but life really is better with balance.

So by all means feel, emote, and if you so desire then preserve a feeling in artwork, but give yourself the compassion you deserve and recognize when you are inflicting more harm than good by dwelling on past pains or nostalgia.

Feelings are not facts. That, is a fact.

– Valerie Parente (3-9-17)

Acceptance

This is the time of year where many of us look back and realize what does and does not matter in this crazy yet incredible paradox called existence. It is baffling and beautiful when you really take an introspective moment to sit down and recollect the path your life has taken so far. In hindsight you can realize which seemingly insignificant experiences had significant impacts and, knowing their outcome thus far, accept them for exactly what they were.

In your life you strive to be something, you strive to get something. When reminiscing about even the most mundane events we are able to notice that the necessary things we needed to make the most of those experiences, bad or good, could always be found somewhere in the memory. (When I say “make the most”, I mean “benefit to the psychological and spiritual growth of our being”). Even your most loathsome situations had some component that helped you get through and, as a result, become the wiser and mentally richer person you are today. The proof is in the fact that- guess what?- you survived.

A major turning point for me this past year was during the past summer when I sought out a different obsessive compulsive disorder treatment.
The treatment shook my idea of individualism. I am proud to say that I did not go into panic mode, like I have in the past, and irrationally attempted to compensate for my lack of certainty with anorexic “solutions” (eating disorders never pose real solutions, they only tangle you in further problems. This is a topic for another time, though). When I think back about how I handled the identity crisis I realize that what I did was, first, recognized my confusion; and second, accepted my confusion. I did not know who I was, what I was about, and how I was going to tackle the grand scheme of my life- and I was content with that. I wrote about it in a poem called “Novelty” (“Novelty” by Valerie Parente) not with the intent to find some external solution out of the thin air, but to find and uproot the solace already dwelling within my current state. And what I found in accepting my state of mind was the miracle of acceptance itself.

The greatest revelation I have come to this past year is the power of acceptance. Acceptance is something we hear about all time. Psychologists, gurus, even religions have long emphasized the importance of accepting our circumstances. I don’t think people understand how this feels until they really experience the ineffable, unwavering, natural phenomena of acceptance firsthand. Acceptance brings a veridical peace that I honestly cannot describe through linguistics, nor can I force on anybody else.
That being said, I can bring light to what acceptance is NOT.

Acceptance is not a peace of mind that can be feigned. Often people mistake peace of mind with being unaffected by life, but this is false. Pretending not to care, pretending that the things bothering you don’t really matter to you, and pretending that life has no effect on you has a tragic outcome… it undermines the greater moments of life. If you are so busy being unaffected all the time you will never feel the depth of positive notions like gratitude, awe, joy, excitement, humor, or love.

Acceptance is also not “doing nothing”. If you are not content with your situation you should still make an effort to overcome obstacles, injustices, and hardships- but you should do so with a mind that reasonably acknowledges the reality that you will have to work through, not around, your dilemmas. To acknowledge a problem for what it is while acknowledging the extra exertion that will be necessary to tackle the problem is to have a mentality that is balanced. Be determined enough to face challenges while compassionate enough to recognize your limits and give yourself a break when you need to replenish your energy. This kind of mental equilibrium is the type of acceptance I saw in myself when thinking back about my identity crisis induced by alternate OCD treatment this summer.

recognize-and-accept

There is great freedom in accepting yourself, others, and anything or everything that unfolds. Let yourself feel what you feel. Understand that everything is fleeting, including your mental state. And be as you are. When you look back you will always realize that you survived, and that nothing can devalue you… you can only be made richer.

 – Valerie Parnete (12-18-2016)

Pretty Darkness

The aesthetic of pretty and dark is an interesting one because it poses a sort of juxtaposition that never gets old. When it comes to portraits and doodles the pink ribbons, heart tattoos, and vibrant roses printed among the la femme drawings capture you in but the provocative gothic tones of mascara stains, bloody tears, and decaying branches dare you too look away. Look, but don’t look. Dismal, yet dazzling. There is this perpetual captivation fueled by the melancholic intimacy behind pretty darkness.
The same juxtaposing state exists when the art of written word hones this pretty darkness. The proper dosage of negativity in text can elicit the rawest and rarest of emotions- and emotion on any level is a beautiful and breathtaking part of being human. Any aesthetic that can celebrate or examine human nature, in any of its mysteries, simplicities, miseries, and revelations, is a pretty dark one.

– Valerie Parente (12-9-16)